In the wake of the first official, laboratory-confirmed cases of seasonal influenza in Maryland, local public health officials are reminding people that October is an excellent time to get a flu shot in Carroll County.
Three people in the greater Baltimore region have become sick with the flu, the Maryland Department of Health announced Thursday. One of the people required hospitalization and was then released.
"With the official start of flu season in Maryland, it's time for everyone to be vaccinated, especially those at high risk of illness," said Dr. Henry Taylor, Carroll County deputy health officer.
High-risk individuals include young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
This is a slightly later start to the flu season than in 2016-2017, when the first confirmed case appeared on Oct. 7, according to a state health department media release.
It's because the flu season sometimes stretches into late spring in Carroll County that Taylor and the Carroll County Health Department have previously recommended against getting a shot in the summer months, instead targeting the month of October for vaccinations as providing the most balanced coverage.
The strain of flu detected this season is Type A, according to the media release; however, it's impossible to know for certain which strain and type of flu virus will become the most prominent in a given flu season. Taylor recommends people get the quadrivalent vaccine, which offers protections against more types and strains of flu.
"All flu shots this year target two strains of Type A influenza and one strain of Type B," he said. "The quadrivalent vaccine targets an additional strain of Type B, which we believe caused more illness toward the end of last season."
The flu is an illness caused by a virus that is passed between people by direct contact, through sneezing and coughing, or by contact with surfaces that have been contaminated by a sick person.
Flu symptoms can appear between one and four days after being exposed and including sneezing, coughing, fever and body aches. Although these symptoms overlap those of a bad cold, the flu can be much worse and even life-threatening, especially for the most vulnerable — more than 100 children died from the flu in the 2016-17 flu season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Carroll County Health Department maintains a website devoted to information on the flu and where to get flu shots, and will be pushing out information on social media under the #CarrollFluVax hashtag throughout October.
Upcoming flu shot clinics
10 a.m. to noon Monday, Oct. 23: South Carroll Senior and Community Center, 5928 Mineral Hill Road, Eldersburg
9 a.m. to noon Thursday, Oct. 26: Westminster Senior and Community Center, 125 Stoner Ave., Westminster
10 a.m. to noon Monday, Oct. 30: North Carroll Senior and Community Center, 2328 Hanover Pike, Hampstead